Stack Overflow was once considered the leading source of free and open programming information, but is now being abused by a small group of members to earn prestige points, “badges” and “mod” titles, to appear to be “experts” when looking for outside freelance projects.
Viewing: What is Stack Overflow
Stack Overflow was founded in 2008 by Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky with the goal of becoming an open question-and-answer platform specializing in programming, replacing contemporary question-and-answer sites. For many years now, Stack Overflow has been one of the most popular references among developers; Questions on Stack Overflow also often appear at the top of Google searches for most programming related issues.
By 2015, Stack Overflow had more than 4 million registered users and about 10 million questions asked (not counting deleted ones). However, according to a 2013 statistic, 77% of total Stack Overflow users only asked 1 question, 65% of users only answered 1 question and only 8% answered more than 5 questions. The following article will explain why such a low interaction rate can exist on the world’s largest programming Q&A platform.
Stack Overflow ‘dislikes’ new users
New users are not welcome on Stack Overflow (SO). A programmer named Jonash Bishop once complained on his personal blog:
“The administration’s effort to keep the site organized and spam-free has left new users with very little benefit when they first log in. This is cool in theory, but it also makes it very difficult to get new users for the site.
I read through some questions today and wanted to write some comments on it. Unfortunately I can’t comment because new users are not allowed to comment on posts that aren’t made by them (you must have enough “reputation” points to do so). Posting a comment on the original post is obviously difficult so I don’t bother doing it anymore.
Looking around the site, I also see that there are very few questions that I feel can be answered. As soon as I answered those questions, someone (maybe even a few people) jumped in. I never got a chance to give a helpful answer. Not only do you have to be extremely knowledgeable about a certain topic, but you also have to be extremely fast when it comes to answering.
Later I also managed to write an answer, but soon realized it didn’t work at all. Before I could act and correct the answer, several people downvoted it, and some even left indecent comments. What a warm welcome! I deleted my answer as well.”
Stack Overflow also doesn’t like other users
It turns out that it’s not just new members who have bad experiences. A programmer on Hacker News shared how difficult it is to join SO (for both experienced and inexperienced coders).
“I used to be happy to add the first 25 points to my profile when someone accepted an answer I gave on the site. But now, if I were to ask the question (after spending a lot of time looking at it and not being able to solve it, of course), it would go like this:
1 – I asked a question, posted the code and the error message I received
2 – The question is downvoted
3 – I have to reply to the comments saying that my question is the same as the one that was asked (actually not the same, I have clearly explained that they are almost the same, not the same).
4 – Responding to comments about a semicolon that was removed when I cut/pasted/edited the code (even though the error message indicated that the semicolon wasn’t the problem).
5 – Upvoted question
6 – The first answer! Say I have to read some document and then give me a link to an unrelated article
7 – Finally a helpful answer! I have tried and solved the problem. I accept the answer and upvote it.
8 – Suddenly saw a duplicate question posted less than 1 minute after the helpful answer was posted. The person who posted the same question complained that they were the first to post. I messaged them that the displayed time clearly showed that I was the first to post, but they still argued that it was due to…time zone difference.
9 – After that, I will receive a message saying: “The question is closed (cannot continue to receive answers) due to ambiguity and cannot be answered”
10 – Checked again and saw someone downvoted my question
11 – Email admin to remove downvote
A programmer named Steven K Hicks also gave some reasons why he felt unable to participate in this community:
– General questions about software development but not directly related to technical factors are often downvoted or closed for answers. For example, a question asking for material for practice purposes was deleted because it was “not suitable for the community”.
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– Downvote the main question as a form of closing it. To have the right to downvote a question, a user needs to accumulate 250 reputation points – a level that is not difficult to earn at all. Reality, Downvotes should only be used to indicate that a question has misinformed or is not helpful.
– Downvotes can be abused with correct but not really correct answers, especially in questions that can have multiple options. For the question of optimizing a Java application, for example, the common answer would be to use a more efficient algorithm – and probably the most voted one as well. However, we still have another answer, which is to rewrite the code in a lower level language and then connect to the main app via pipe (Socket, inproc, JNI, ..). The second answer is more suitable for specific cases and can still be considered acceptable, but with a high chance of being downvoted. I asked an admin and he confirmed that it is perfectly valid to downvote a correct answer.
On the blog of Machael’s Techbox, one person left a comment stating that SO was once considered the leading source of free and open programming information, but is now being abused by a small group of members to earn prestige points. credentials, “badges” and the title “mod” (admin), to appear “expert” when looking for outside freelance projects.
Another coder also commented in agreement on The Programming Works blog: “SO is not as good as it used to be. Now, your chances of getting a useful answer on SO are almost zero. Instead, you’ll get dozens of comments complaining that your question is not relevant or useful to the community. SO copper.”
Above are some current SO issues. Some other notable information about the prominent rights of members on the site:
– 39,000 members with a reputation score of 2,000 or more have the right to edit other people’s questions
– 26,000 members with a reputation score of 3,000 or more can vote to close the question. As long as it is closed by 5 people, the question will be “put on hold” – waiting for approval to reopen.
– 6,900 members with a reputation score of 10,000 or more can…delete the question.
Of the thousands of members with such privileges, who can guarantee that they will always comply with their responsibilities and regulations with those who ask questions that are not in their “style”, especially when this authority is granted. without any professional experience related to the content of the question? Many users complain that they encounter “holy trolls” who constantly downvote questions for no reason, not even bothering to read the content of the sentence carefully or leave comments mocking the questioner himself.
Worse, SO also has a policy to automatically delete questions in an unpleasant way, which applies to sentences:
– Closed more than 9 days ago
– Voting score is less than or equal to 0
– No answer is voted with a score greater than 0
– No answers are accepted
– No re-opening requests are pending
– Not edited in the last 9 days
The disastrous consequence is that many helpful questions are not only closed before anyone can answer them, many of them are also gone forever after just 9 days.
Even though I’m not a programmer, Quora seems like an obvious choice to many people. However, this platform also suffers from some of the same problems as SO, although somewhat milder. For example, questions that “stick” downvotes will often be hidden for most users surfing the Quora feed, and it is not uncommon for questions to be deleted without any explanation or notice.
That’s why while Quora looks more democratic and streamlined, it’s just the surface. The arbitrary status of a group of privileged users has also taken place on the site, while many extremely silly questions still exist.
However, whatever it is, SO and Quora are still the two leading Q&A platforms today. The line between regulation and autocracy seems extremely thin.
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Do we have any potential alternatives? Please leave your comments below.
Refer to Medium
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